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How U.S. immigration policies tear families apart

The spouse of an individual who becomes a U.S. citizen is granted the immigration status of a lawful permanent resident. In most cases, lawful permanent residents are safe from immigration enforcement actions including detention and removal. If, however, they violate certain terms as pursuant to their immigration status, they can become targets of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The immigration struggles of one lawful permanent resident were recently chronicled in an article in The Guardian newspaper. According to the story, the husband and father of three was arrested on drug charges after he arranged for the introduction of a cocaine dealer and supplier. The man was advised by his attorney to plead guilty and received a 51-month prison sentence.

While serving out his sentence, the drug convictions of an estimated 6,000 non-violent drug offenders were retroactively reduced by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Based upon his behavior while behind bars and a letter of recommendation from his state U.S. attorney's office, the man was released after serving 41 months behind bars. He was not, however, released into the waiting arms of his wife and children, but rather sent to an immigration detention center.

According to ICE, nearly 1,790 non-U.S. citizens were released after the U.S. Sentencing Commission reduced drug sentences for non-violent offenders. Of these individuals, 763 were handed "final orders of removal" and were deported or sent to detention centers where they await decisions about their immigration status.

Because of the drug conviction, the father of three effectively revoked his status as a legal permanent resident. His is seeking to be granted deferred action status which would mean that he could stay with his family and work in the U.S. If he is deported, he cannot legally return to the U.S. to see his wife and children who are all U.S. citizens.

This man’s story is just one of thousands of U.S. immigrants who encounter challenges with U.S. immigration laws and agencies. To have a fighting chance of overcoming these types of challenges, it’s important to seek the advice and assistance of an immigration attorney.

Source: The Guardian, "Immigrant facing deportation could be first to benefit from US drug law reform," Renee Feltz, March 28, 2016

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